A guide to love and loss when working for an MP

I was sitting in the Sports and Social the other night, idly toying with my ninth pint of Guinness, when my intern piped up.

“Dean,” she began. “You’re a man.”

I raised one eyebrow in what I hoped was a suitably enigmatic manner.

“Well, the thing is I’ve been seeing this guy. Or at least, I think I have.”

I mentally sighed and rearranged my features into the requisite expression of interested anticipation, a look I find tends to play better with the fairer sex than “bored resignation” coupled with loud yawning and ostentatiously checking the Annunciator for the time.

“He’s really sweet. I met him in here just before last orders last Friday night …”

Already this was not looking good.

“… and I know that he’s got a bit of a reputation as, you know,” she lowered her voice slightly, “a player.”

I nodded, understandingly. At least I hoped I did.

“But he was really sweet. He bought me a gin and tonic and told me how beautiful I was. Well, after they kicked us out we stood outside for ages just smoking and talking about everything. You know, like politics and all that stuff.”

Must have been riveting. Damn, did I say that out loud?

“And I let him have a cheeky snog in Westminster tube station. But the thing is …”

Here it comes.

“… he’s in here tonight and he’s not even made eye contact with me because he’s too busy talking to that – that – tart in the short skirt. Do you think he’s afraid of intimacy?”

Judging from where this particular unprepossessing specimen of our noble profession had his hand right then I’d have thought not, but all of a sudden I was struck with a revelation that, working in politics, should have occurred to me sooner: never underestimate the human capacity for self-delusion. All at once I thought – this could be me! I could write all those self-help books about how it’s not about your glands, it’s about eating three meals a day in the House of Commons! I could be the one on the sofa of a daytime television show promoting my new book entitled, “Yes, They Really Do Poo in the Woods”. Film contracts would follow, and before I know it, I could be sat on a film set with a pair of ray bans stapled to my forehead, covertly checking out Scarlett Johansson and the hot one from Friends as the film adaptation tries to do justice to my Wildean prose.

I was roused from my daydream by a reasonably irate phone call from W4MP Towers reminding me that my article was late (again) and so, downing my Guinness and rummaging around for my laptop, I delivered my assessment of the situation to my intern.

“He’s just not that into you.”

The Lobbyist

            Dear Dean,

            Jocasta and I have been together since just after the 2005 general election. She is so brilliant, Dean! She’s blonde, and privately educated, works for that lobbying firm that represented that Faust chap. She’s so interested in politics. She’s always begging me to take her along to receptions or to see if we can get in to the Strangers’ Bar where all the MPs and Ministers are. Honestly, she gets so star-struck it’s funny! Sometimes if someone really important arrives in a room she doesn’t notice whether I’m there or not, she’s so interested in what they’re saying.

            But in the last year or so, she seems to be losing interest. Once we’d spend ages planning which parties to go to at Party Conference and scouting the corridors of power in search of influential Ministers and Special Advisors, but recently she’s not been returning my calls and keeps going on about other men with names like “Tonquil” and “Jeremy”.

            How do I show her that I really love her and don’t want to lose her?

            Yours, Barry


            Dear Barry,

Well, the nuclear option is to ask her to marry you. But only if you’re prepared to spend days holed up in your house so you don’t run into the divorce lawyer she’s got stationed at your front door every time the polls take a turn for the worse, and are okay to enter into what she will term an “open relationship” come election time.

I guess it’s all down to whether you enjoy being used and discarded, like one of those warm face-flannels you get in Indian restaurants, every time there are rumours of a shocking result in the latest Ipsos-MORI. Personally I’d get involved with someone from the Professional Opposition – the liberty lobby, pretty much anyone from the political blogosphere, or a minor columnist who uses the word “betrayal” a lot are reasonably safe bets – and cut your losses.

Sorry mate, she’s just not that into your party any more.


Hot or not?

Dear Dean,

            There’s a group of us who regularly go out to the pub after work, but there’s one bag-carrier who’s always the life and soul of the party and recently he’s told someone in strictest confidence (so I heard three minutes later) that he really likes me.

            He is a great person, and I’ve always thought of him as like a brother. Everyone says we’d make a great couple but the thing is that … well, I REALLY don’t fancy him. I know it’s really shallow of me, but I find his “humorous” habit of yelling “ding dong!” at passing interns when we’re all at lunch somewhat off putting, not to mention the fact that he’s been in the House since 1992, and nearly twenty years of Terrace breakfasts and an equal number of nights in the bar will do something to a man. My friends say he’s “cuddly” and “interesting”.

            Maybe I should give him a try? I mean, the relationship will grow on me, right?

            Yours, Amy


Dear Amy,

Allow me to introduce you to a concept: Westminster Good-looking. Now, we all know that there life is more complex than the question “hot or not?” allows. Rather, the various stages of good-looking that exist between those points indicate more of a subtle prism. However, when ascertaining where people working for MPs stand on this scale, it is necessary to start from a much lower base. This is what is known as “Westminster Good-looking” prism, designed specifically to monitor the attractiveness of the motley collection of pasty politics geeks, pamphlet obsessives, and general weirdoes who are crazy enough to go into this profession. Incidentally, and at the risk of being sexist, the Westminster Good-looking scale doesn’t tend to apply to the ladies, many of whom would give your average modelling agency a run for its money. Cynics suggest that this might be down to the collection of middle-aged men who comprise the bulk of our elected representatives here at the seat of Parliamentary democracy. You might very well think that; I couldn’t possibly comment.

So, honestly, where do you think that this bloke is on the Westminster Good-looking scale? Not that I’m saying a great personality isn’t important, but given that your average night out with him would more than likely comprise of him drunkenly trying to cop a feel of your intern whilst burping along to “Is This The Way To Amarillo” you might want to think again if he’s not at least grazing a high seven.

There’s a whole, wide world outside Parliament’s walls. Go forth and investigate.

Yours, Dean


The Pact

Dear Dean,

            When I started working for my MP in his constituency office, I was going out with this guy. We shared a lot of the same beliefs but he headed off to Westminster to work for a Member who was in the Government and dumped me shortly afterwards saying that we didn’t have anything in common anymore. I found out later that he was seeing another girl – who was the same party as him – and he’d left me for her.

            I started going out with my boyfriend (who is in yet another political party, and not one that’s massively popular around these parts) and we’re still together now. The thing is my ex has started texting me again saying that he’s made a huge mistake and wants me back.

            We had such a good thing going – I thought at the time we would be together forever – but I’m torn between him and my boyfriend. Who’s been very attentive of late, come to think of it.

            What should I do?

            Yours, Sarah

Dear Sarah,

Yeah, he made a huge mistake. I believe the political term is “putting all your policy letter backups on one computer system” as opposed to whacking them on the shared drive and hoping someone else will save your ass if you accidentally have a power failure and lose the lot.

He was happy enough to chuck you over so he could stride around Westminster wielding a mobile phone and explaining to everyone who couldn’t run away fast enough that being the tea-boy for a backbench MP made him a “Political Advisor” whilst making kissy-faces at that girl who worked for an unmemorable PPS. What’s changed his mind? (Unless you’ve suddenly come to resemble Cheryl Cole, in which case I take it all back)

Similarly, one could ask why your current boyfriend suddenly has enough time to discuss the cultural significance of Rob Roy with you into the early hours, when before he was too busy debating with his colleagues whether white tie was appropriate when going canvassing in Glasgow East to remember to record First Minister’s Questions?

My advice would be, unless you are so terrified of the idea of true independence, to go it alone.


The MP and the bag-carrier

            Dear Dean,

            I am a Member of Parliament fast approaching fifty, and I’ve fallen in love! She’s my staffer. She’s only just twenty-three and …


Dear Anonymous MP,

Okay, I’m stopping you there. No. Just no. Put the mid-life crisis down, and make your way quietly to the nearest exit. Thank you.

Yours, ever so slightly scared, Dean.


Anybody who wants the film rights to this modern day rendition of The Unbearable Lightness of Being need only ask.

Now for an evening sat staring at the phone.

Dean Trench February 2009